Atlanta Dream, Phoenix Mercury Advance to 2nd Round
The WNBA 2nd round will be played this upcoming weekend following round-one victories from the Atlanta Dream and the Phoenix Mercury.
The WNBA playoffs started on Wednesday night and two teams saw their seasons ended. The Seattle Storm, after a strong run down the stretch of the regular season, lost to the Atlanta Dream. Just prior to that the Phoenix Mercury toppled the hopes of the Indiana Fever. The 2nd-round teams will be reseeded and that produces the following weekend match-ups:
- No. 3 New York Liberty host the No. 8 Phoenix Mercury (Saturday, 7pm ET)
- No. 4 Chicago Sky host the No. 6 Atlanta Dream (Sunday, 1pm ET)
The 2nd round remains single elimination in the new WNBA format. The two top seeds, the Minnesota Lynx and the Los Angeles Sparks, remain idle at this point. Their semifinal opponents will be determined by the above games. Following the upcoming weekend, the playoffs will then turn into best-of-five series for the concluding two rounds.
The Phoenix Mercury, the pre-season favorites, are certainly a team back on the radar at this point. They won on the road against the Fever on Wednesday despite a poor overall record when visiting. They can’t really mind their draw all that much as they prepare to face New York.
Between the Liberty and the Sky, the teams that will host games this weekend, it’s the Liberty that look ripe for the pickings from some points of view. They certainly are not a dynamite team at home as they are just 10-7 on the season when hosting. Furthermore, they lost six of ten down the stretch heading into the playoffs.
However, beating New York promises to be a much bigger task, because of the Tina Charles factor. Charles won her fourth straight player of the month award earlier this week, meaning that she swept the award for the season. A strong candidate for MVP, the Mercury are facing a challenge they did not face with Indiana – the task of shutting down one of the association’s brightest lights.
The fourth-seeded Sky are a team that really took control of their own destiny down the stretch. Chicago went 7-3 in their last ten to claim the fourth spot in the standings, a position that was really up for grabs in the closing week of the regular season. Furthermore, the Sky are a bit more convincing at home with their 11-6 record when hosting.
There certainly is not a lot between the Sky and Dream in the standings: just one win separates the two teams. However, the home-court advantage looms large in this match-up. The Sky are 11-6 when hosting while the Dream are 6-11.
If you were to project the semifinal series at this point, then it would be Minnesota hosting Chicago and Los Angeles hosting New York. That’s a good position for the Liberty to be in if they can survive the Mercury. The Lynx are the dangerous high seed while the Sparks lost a bunch of games down the stretch of the regular season.
It may be a little early to talk about the WNBA Finals, because anything can happen in the one-and-done games. However, the Liberty vs. the Lynx certainly is a match-up that seems more probable than a lot of other possibilities.